Please Don’t Send Your NaNoWriMo Manuscript to Agents

NaNoWriMo manuscriptIt’s December 1, and for a lot of writers out there, including myself, that means NaNoWriMo is over. Did you do it? Did you hit your goal? I made it across the finish line mid-day yesterday, just in time. For everyone else who did (and even for those who gave it their best shot) I’m sending a big old buddha-fist-bump your way. Eff-yeah! You did it! You should do something to celebrate: go out for drinks, get a massage, buy yourself a tub of cookie dough ice cream and go to town. The one thing you should not do, under any circumstances, is send your NaNoWriMo manuscript to agents.


I’m kind of surprised this even needs saying, but apparently there is a whole contingent out there who slap out 50,000 words and start querying agents. WTF?

First of all, 50,000 isn’t even long enough to be considered a proper novel. And never mind that, you’re sending a first draft to an agent? I don’t even let my husband read my first drafts. First drafts are supposed to be shitty. And they are. Count on it.

Okay, okay, I’m sure you’re the exception. I’m sure that you are so brilliant that an agent will totally overlook the typos and inconsistencies in your writing. I’m sure they will be so enamored of your pages and pages of dialogue that they won’t be able to sleep and will sit by the phone until it’s 8am and they can reasonably expect you to be awake so that they can call you and beg you to be their client.

I’m also sure you’re insane.

Please, please don’t send your NaNoWriMo manuscript to agents. It’s not only embarrassing for you, it builds a bad reputation for every serious writer who used the NaNoWriMo challenge to kick off an earnest writing project.

Here’s what to do instead:

  1. Keep writing (until you get to about 80,000, depending on your genre – check out Christine Frazier’s free word count guide to see what the standards are in your chosen genre.).
  2. Then stick it in a drawer for about three months and do something else.
  3. Come back and read it through.
  4. Edit. A lot.
  5. Have some trusted friends read it. 
  6. Edit some more.
  7. Stick it in a drawer for another three months.
  8. Read it again.
  9. Edit again.
  10. Repeat steps 5-9 as necessary
  11. Hire a professional editor to do a final pass.

Then start sending out your query letter.

Or don’t do all that. There’s no law that dictates what you have to do with your 50,000 words. You could serialize them on your blog, or self publish, or make yourself a suit by stapling the pages together then use the remaining pages to make a paper mache hat to match. It’s your art.

But if you want to go the traditional route of finding an agent and a subsequent publisher, you still have a lot of work to do.

Personally, I intend to follow that list shot for shot. I am super proud of myself for hitting the 50,000 word mark, and I figure I have at least another 30,000 words to go, if not 40 or 50,000. And when I get there, I’ll stick it in a drawer, and use the time to finish the final edit on my first novel.

Writing is work. To pretend it isn’t is insulting to us all.

Continue Reading

I Will Not Give Up

I will not give upI woke up at 3am yesterday.

Now, you know I’m a big proponent of getting up early to write, but that’s just ridiculous. I couldn’t sleep. November is always a really busy month, what with the family coming in for Thanksgiving, and my husband’s birthday always falling right around the holiday. Then my boy’s birthday is in early December so I need to put his party together. To add to the fun this year, we have a new puppy, I’m doing NaNoWriMo, and oh, yeah, my husband ruined his knee playing soccer and had to go in for surgery yesterday.

It was the surgery that had me laying awake, but in a close second was the fact that I was struggling to keep up my word count in NaNoWriMo. I’m so freaking close I can taste it. So I got up, took the puppy out to pee, and brewed some coffee.

As of this morning, with one day left to go, I have 48,665 words. I also have a husband who can’t get out of bed, a daughter leaving on a three-day field trip tomorrow (with a long list of things to pack that we haven’t started collecting), and yes, a puppy who still needs to go out every two hours. My house plants need watering and I haven’t been out for a run in two weeks. The house is a mess.

I have every excuse in the world to throw the towel in. I also have only 1,335 words to go, damn it. I will not give up.

So forgive me if I keep this one short. I have some client work that actually really needs to get done before I can go back to my fiction and the sooner I get that done, the sooner I can hit that 50,000 word mark and do a little happy dance for hitting a major goal. Stay tuned.

Continue Reading

Shop Indies First

Shop Indies FirstI know a lot of you will be shopping this weekend. I will not. I will be doing my holiday shopping like a sane person, in my pajamas, on cyber Monday. That said, I think everyone, shoppers and enochlophobics alike, should all plan to stop by their local independent bookstore this Saturday for an Indies First event. Continue Reading →

Continue Reading

Scrivener Binder Icons

Recently, I started to notice subtle differences in the appearance of my Scrivener binder icons. For those who don’t know, the binder is the column to the left of where you write, the section that holds all your files and folders, like a real binder might. It’s kind of like home base for your manuscript.

So what do those different icons mean? And why do they change as we work on our project? I did a little research. Continue Reading →

Continue Reading

Compiling a Wish List of Agents

In August, my dear friend Alexandra texted me with a proposal that we finish our novels and start sending them to agents in March. To be clear, these are the novels we started back in grad school, going on eight years ago. They’ve been close to done for a long time, but we have both been dragging our feet on the final steps. So we made a bet. The deal was, we had to have a query letter ready to go, a manuscript to back it up, and an agent hit list (a list of 30 agents we would be thrilled to be represented by) before mid-March. Continue Reading →

Continue Reading

Your Public Library Online (and How to Check Books Out Digitally)

public library onlineFor a long time I knew about the public library online portal, but I never used it. In truth, it’s not the most intuitive system, and I kind of like the ritual of actually going down to the library in person. But once I bit the bullet and got my Kindle synched up with the library system I was completely won over.

It was my daughter who finally pushed me into figuring it out. Not only is she reading up a storm these days, but she carries books with her everywhere, and we were always struggling to find the books and return them in time to avoid late fees. When you “check out” books digitally, they pop up on your e-reader automatically, and then, when the books are due, they simply disappear from the devise (unless you renew them for more time). It’s brilliant.  Continue Reading →

Continue Reading

Color Coding Scrivener

color coding scrivenerColor coding Scrivener is one of my favorite little writerly tricks. It’s just so freaking handy. Here’s how it works.

In the binder of your project simply right-click on any item (or selection of items) and move your mouse down the resulting mento to “Label.” You can chose one of the existing labels, or click the bottom option there to edit and create your very own labels. To get the colors to show in your binder, you simply go to VIEW > USE LABEL COLOR IN > BINDER. Continue Reading →

Continue Reading